The shoes clop loudly on the wooden floor as the dancers walk around and greet each other. Their worn, black shoes with rounded toes and thick heels clash with their brightly colored workout clothes. Those without shoes are dancing in white socks, sliding across the floor. The one male member of the group stands about four inches taller than the rest of the dancers but doesn’t seem to mind as he mingles, chatting with the other dancers. Senior Maeve Willis, a short girl with fiery-red hair dressed in grey sweatpants, takes charge of the group, gathering the dancers up.
“Let’s start with a run of the whole thing, just to see where we are,” Willis says.
Traditional Celtic music blares from the speakers, electrifying the room. Fairly quickly, the dancers move into position and focus on their task. They move right and left, forward and backward, making circles, lines, and V-formations. Occasionally, small groups break out and make small circles or weave over and under arms. Suddenly, the music breaks and “Everybody Dance Now” slashes the calm. Without a flinch or a break in their stride, the dancers continue, their focus never wavering.
This weekend, these dancers will be taking their dance on the road, traveling to the Intercollegiate Irish Dance Competition, the first ever to take place in North America. The event will be held at Villanova University in Villanova, Pa. The group will be performing in the four hand reel, treble jig, and fun number categories. On Saturday, they will be performing in a show open to the entire Villanova community along with the other eight schools competing.
“I’m very excited to be in a position to make history,” senior Julia Sklar said. “This is the first intercollegiate Irish dance competition that has ever been hosted in North America, and we get to be part of that. It’s a thrilling opportunity for us.”
Her team members certainly share her excitement, especially those that have been a part of smaller competition in the past.
“I am excited to be able to perform competitively again,” sophomore Christina Rutherford said. “Nothing like this competition has happened before for the college population. It’s giving past competitive dancers a chance to get back to their roots.”
Most of the team members have a significant amount of past experience in Irish dance. Many were raised in Irish families, and dancing is just part of their heritage.
“I’ve been dancing for 16 years,” Willis said. “Both of my parents grew up in Ireland, and when my mom suggested it to me as kid, it sounded like fun. I never looked back.”
Though the biggest emotion among the club members is excitement, there are a few worries.
“I’m afraid that our dance won’t be quite ready in time,” freshman Lauren Dunlap said. “We have amazing choreography and a lot of potential but not a huge amount of practice time.”
Others expressed their concerns about competing against other teams.
“It will be a little nerve-wracking dancing in a formal competition setting for the first time rather than [dancing] just for fun,” junior Brittany Flittner said.
Regardless of how the group performs this weekend, UR Celtic will remain a strong force on campus.
“The thing that keeps me coming back is that two years ago, UR Celtic was barely surviving,” junior Rachel Eskridge said. “The transformation was stunning to watch and really awe-inspiring to be a part of, and I can honestly say I am proud to be a part of the UR Celtic family.”
Sanguinetti is a member of the class of 2015.